- Associated Press - Monday, March 31, 2014

BREMERTON, Wash. (AP) - As he pulled into his driveway off Olympus Drive one night, Jason Demerick’s headlights caught the green, glowing eyes of more than a dozen raccoons in his yard.

The number of nocturnal gazes surprised even Demerick, who has for seven years attempted to coexist with the critters that make his backyard feel like a zoo.

Raccoon teeth and claws have shredded all his patio furniture - he’s replaced his hot tub cover three times - and he no longer keeps it outside. But worse than any property damage, the rather tidy creatures actually set up “latrines” where they poop in one location, filling his backyard with a smell that ultimately must be shoveled out. Demerick said past roommates have even gotten physically ill from the stench.

He’s even reluctantly set traps to catch them, in an effort to control the ballooning population. But he feels helpless in a battle he believes would be won if a neighbor would stop providing bowls-full of food for the raccoons. No local, state or federal government agency has been able to help.

“I feel like I’ve had my hands tied for seven years,” he said.

Demerick’s case is but one example of the quagmire faced by some residents in Bremerton and the surrounding county: can you get someone to stop feeding wildlife?

The Bremerton City Council is hopeful it is possible. The Council is voting Wednesday on whether to stiffen fines for those caught providing food to critters, and contract with the federal agriculture department to respond to problem areas and euthanize aggressive raccoons.

Eric Younger, the city councilman who proposed the changes, knows the problem well. A neighbor to his former West Bremerton home fed outdoor cats. But that effort drew raccoons. He didn’t know where to turn. The police couldn’t help and the Kitsap Humane Society only deals with domesticated animals.

“Eventually I sold my house and problem went to next owner,” he said.

This past year, Younger learned of a similar problem on Madrona Point. The raccoon population surged to the point neighbors held a meeting with the councilman to figure out what to do.

Richard Nerf, a neighbor on Madrona Point, said raccoon trails sprang up across his property. Latrines appeared.

“I was shoveling literally galloons of feces each week,” he said.

So Nerf went to battle to protect his property, putting in gates and chicken wire to deter the animals, and being especially vigilant to make sure wildlife had no food source. They’ve even hired a trapper to contain the worst raccoons.

“The last thing we wanted to do was to kill wild animals,” Nerf’s wife, Judy Friedberg-Nerf, said.

The stench was bad enough to make you gag, she said. But that wasn’t the worst part. The feces can carry a parasite potentially fatal to humans, and they worried especially about their grandchild playing in the backyard. Unlike raccoons on the east coast, ones in the Pacific Northwest aren’t known for carrying rabies.

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